Eagle and serpent

explorations and philosophy: in the world, of the world

Tag: tradition

Tortured gods, institutions

Noticing the amusing outrage about the status of crucifixes in Italian schools, one’s tempted to have a multitude of reactions. On one hand, keeping these kind of religious symbols in classrooms in these times of (at least outspoken) secularism, is rather weird. On the other, is it a surprise that the populace is outraged? Third, what’s the point of court orders which no-one can (or is willing to) enforce?

Culturally, the whole issue triggers an interesting set of questions. Moving beyond the obvious “this-is-our-culture” identity-fortifying outcry, what is the source of this reaction? Could it be that somehow unconsciously, Italians are proud of the cross and their god being tortured to death on it? Thus, Italians (in the loving memory of the Roman empire) want to embrace the heritage of introducing that particular torturing/execution method. Sweet.


Charm of the infra

One of the common topics around the campus is the physical condition of the premises. Simply put, there is great variance among different buildings—some seem never to have recovered from the Second World War, some being brand new.

Also the populace is divided. There is a sect that values the shabby attractiveness of the ‘city’ campus with its tight corridors, gloomy rooms and peeling paint. Then there are those who’d rather have an Oxbridge-style countryside campus. And of course, there are those freaks who would like to have a modern and well-functioning one.

However, today something happened that was too much even for the Brits themselves. In the middle of training, we realised something smelling. When we looked to the door, we saw an expanding pond dripping down from the ceiling. A pond—as we would soon realise—of urine.

Charming, indeed.

Proselytise the traveller

There is one thing that I’ve come across in some Muslim countries I’ve visited. It’s the eagerness of some locals to convert me to Islam.

First one took place in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, when the warden gave me a handful of leaflets telling how wonderful the faith was. I had been staring at the beautiful murals, obviously long enough to trigger his mission. In Eastern Turkey, the approach was not that respectful. A bearded man challenged me and my friend of us “Not respecting Mohammad, why?” Answering that kind of question is quite hard: “Umm…we don’t disrespect, he’s just not part of the doctrine…” invoked just another set of questions and suspicions.

In Iran, everyone minded their own business in terms of religion.

In Sahara, however, it happened again. In the shared taxi from Tan Tan to Laayoune, my neighbour (young and multi-lingual guy) suddenly popped out the question: “Why are you not a Muslim?” “Well, I was not brought to be one, and haven’t felt the need to convert” was my initial reply. This was not satisfactory. Interestingly, he used the exactly same argument than the man in Van (East Turkey): “Why hold on to a faith that is obviously wrong? Islam is correct, so you should convert to it.”

Needless to say, a philosophical argument questioning the foundations of his claim didn’t yield much. Raising the issue of having read the Qur’an and still not believing didn’t help either… Oh well.

It’s just interesting. There must be something in the religious mind that makes them spread the ‘good’ word. It happens also in the better families. It’s a gift, not an attempt to proselytise!

London rain

Sometimes it’s good to be caught by the famed London rain. A while ago, during an attempt to reach the pinnacle of human achievement, the British Museum, I found myself in the middle of one. Luckily (and not very surprisingly), help was just few steps away. James Smith & Sons were there where they were needed the most: “Would you mind showing me that one, sir?”

Now, Mr. Smith has been in the business for almost 180 years, which is quite well considering all happenings since the start of his career. Alternatively, we have a company that has been run by several similar-minded generations, and thus been able to survive all the turmoil in the world. Without really knowing, one could only speculate why this is the case. Some possible reasons for such longevity may be a respectful clientele, along with high quality and service.

Admittedly, the quality of their products and attitude towards service are among the best I have experienced, ever. While it is true that you don’t have to pay 50 £ for a cheap-o umbrella made in one of the Koreas, you should not expect the same quality either. In case you pay a visit yearning for the walking sticks and canes for gentlemen, turn right. The more boring, contemporary stuff are to the left from the door.